Okinawan American veteran used Uchinaguchi to save local residents during the Battle of Okinawa

Okinawan American veteran used Uchinaguchi to save local residents during the Battle of Okinawa

Takejiro Higa, who talked about his war experiences, and Hiroyuki Kunugi of the Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum. At Kitanakagusuku Elementary School on December 4.

December 18, 2013 Ryukyu Shimpo

Hawaiian resident 90-year-old Takejiro Higa was born in Hawaii and raised in Okinawa from the age of two-years-old. After returning to Hawaii when he was 16-years-old Higa joined the US military and served in the Battle of Okinawa. On December 4, he visited his old school of Kitanakagusuku Elementary School where he spoke to the pupils.

After the Pacific War began, Higa joined the U.S. military, serving in the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines and the Battle of Okinawa.

Higa served in the US Military Intelligence Service as an interpreter. He told the children about how during the Battle of Okinawa he used both Uchinaguchi (Okinawan language) and Japanese to persuade many Okinawans hiding in caves to surrender. Higa talked about persuading locals hiding in a cave near Nodake in Ginowan to come out and give themselves up. Higa said, “The Japanese military gave them grenades to use to kill themselves.”

After the war, Higa met a woman who was hiding in that cave. Needless to say, she was very grateful for what he did. When she heard Higa speaking Uchinaguchi, she understood that there was an Okinawan outside the cave, and went outside. Higa said, “I was able to save some Okinawans by speaking Uchinaguchi.”

“There is nothing as stupid as war. I want all of you to study hard and work for peace,” said Higa to the children.

He returned to Hawaii on December 5, but Kitanakagusuku Village plans to invite him again to deliver a lecture sometime between June and August next year.

(English translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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